Famous British Civil Engineers

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Find out more about the greatest British Civil Engineers, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Stephenson, David Brewster, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Bazalgette.
Vote for Your Favourite British Civil Engineers
 1 
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
(Civil Engineer)
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
4
Birthdate: April 9, 1806
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Portsmouth, England
Died: September 15, 1859

English civil engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is considered "one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history." Considered a major figure of the Industrial Revolution, he built docks, a series of steamships, and many important bridges and tunnels. He was placed second in a BBC public poll to determine the "100 Greatest Britons" in 2002. 

 2 
George Stephenson
(Father of Railways)
George Stephenson
6
Birthdate: June 9, 1781
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wylam
Died: August 12, 1848

George Stephenson was a British mechanical and civil engineer. Stephenson is credited with pioneering rail transport which is widely regarded as one of the most prominent inventions of the 19th century. Regarded as the Father of Railways, George Stephenson is also credited with developing the standard rail gauge which is used by several railways around the world.

 3 
Joseph Bazalgette
(British Civil Engineer Who Created a Sewerage System for Central London)
Joseph Bazalgette
4
Birthdate: March 28, 1819
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Enfield, London, England
Died: March 15, 1891

British civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette was the man behind the development of the sewage system of London. He was later knighted for his achievements and had also served as the president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Another notable work of his was the Hammersmith Bridge.

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 4 
Robert Stephenson
(Engineer, Civil engineer, Politician)
Robert Stephenson
3
Birthdate: October 16, 1803
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Willington Quay
Died: October 12, 1859
English civil engineer and locomotive designer Robert Stephenson is remembered for his railroad bridges, the most notable of them being the Britannia Bridge. He was the only son of rail transport pioneer George Stephenson. He had also been a mining engineer in Colombia and was knighted in Belgium, France, and Norway.
 5 
John Smeaton
(Civil Engineer)
John Smeaton
3
Birthdate: June 8, 1724
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Austhorpe, Leeds, England
Died: October 28, 1792

John Smeaton was the first person to claim to be a civil engineer. One of his best-known creations was the Eddystone Lighthouse. He was also the first to use hydraulic lime in concrete. He not only won the Copley Medal but was also made a Fellow of The Royal Society.

 6 
William Mulholland
(Irish-American Self-Taught Civil Engineer Known for Building the Water System of Los Angeles)
William Mulholland
4
Birthdate: September 11, 1855
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland
Died: July 22, 1935

William Mulholland was initially hailed as a hero for building the first aqueduct system of Los Angeles, as the first chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He later resigned taking responsibility for the collapse of the St. Francis Dam, which had caused countless deaths.

 7 
Marc Isambard Brunel
(French-British Engineer Who Constructed the 'Thames Tunnel')
Marc Isambard Brunel
5
Birthdate: April 25, 1769
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hacqueville, Normandy, France
Died: December 12, 1849

French-British engineer Marc Isambard Brunel is best known for constructing the Thames Tunnel and had been the chief engineer of New York City. He had also spent time in a debtor’s prison for his association with loss-making projects. He was the father of renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

 8 
Osborne Reynolds
(Physicist, Civil engineer, Engineer)
Osborne Reynolds
3
Birthdate: August 23, 1842
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belfast
Died: February 21, 1912

Osborne Reynolds is best remembered for revolutionizing the fields of hydraulics and fluid dynamics. Born to a clergy father who was also a mathematician, Reynolds developed an interest in mechanics early in life. Reynolds was the first engineering professor at Owens College, Manchester, and also a Royal Society fellow.

 9 
Joseph Bramah
(Civil engineer, Engineer)
Joseph Bramah
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1748
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Barnsley
Died: December 9, 1814

Joseph Bramah started his career as a cabinet maker and over time, revolutionized the lock-making industry with his pick-proof locks. Along with blacksmith Henry Maudslay, he changed the course of 19th-century British manufacturing. Best known for his hydraulic press, he also built water closets in Queen Victoria’s home.

 10 
John By
(Military Engineer)
John By
2
Birthdate: August 7, 1779
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lambeth,London, England
Died: February 1, 1836

One of the major figures behind the development of the city of Ottawa, military engineer John By had created the Rideau Canal, which connected Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River. He was also charged with over-running the costs for the project but was eventually acquitted of all charges.

Nicholas Ridley, Baron Ridley of Liddesdale
3
Birthdate: February 17, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: March 4, 1993

British Conservative Nicholas Ridley, or Baron Ridley of Liddesdale, was born into aristocracy and received an elite education at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. He held several significant posts, such as the secretary of state for the environment and was a major supporter of Thatcherism.

 12 
Claire Barratt
(Archaeologist, Mechanical Engineer)
Claire Barratt
0
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: England

While she initially studied engineering, Claire Barratt later gained fame as an industrial archaeologist. She has a degree in conservation of industrial heritage. She also has a parallel career as a TV presenter and has been part of shows such as Salvage Squad and Britain's Secret Treasures.

 13 
Thomas Brassey
(Civil Engineer)
Thomas Brassey
2
Birthdate: November 7, 1805
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Buerton
Died: December 8, 1870

Initially a surveyor, Thomas Brassey later built some of the most well-known railway lines of the world. The British contractor contributed to the Grand Junction Railway, Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway, and the Crimean Railway. He later also became a Liberal MP and a governor of Victoria, Australia.

 14 
Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet
2
Birthdate: July 15, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wadsley, England
Died: November 20, 1898

Civil engineer Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet is best remembered for constructing the London Metropolitan Railway and for co-constructing Scotland’s Forth Bridge. He had also worked in Egypt and was the youngest to serve as the president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. His works also included locomotives and hydro-electric schemes.

 15 
James B. Francis
(British-American Civil Engineer, Who Invented the 'Francis Turbine')
James B. Francis
2
Birthdate: May 18, 1815
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Oxfordshire, England
Died: September 18, 1892

Best remembered as the inventor of the Francis turbine, civil engineer James B. Francis initially helped build the Stonington Railway. At 22, he became the chief engineer of Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on the Merrimack River, and stayed with it for 40 years, as a prominent waterpower engineer.

 16 
Benjamin Baker
(Civil Engineer)
Benjamin Baker
2
Birthdate: March 31, 1840
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Frome, Somerset, England
Died: May 19, 1907

Victorian-era civil engineer Benjamin Baker initially assisted John Fowler and later became his partner. His best-known work had been the bridge on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. He had also contributed to the first Aswan dam. Knighted for his achievements, he had also penned several papers on engineering.

 17 
James Henry Greathead
(British Mechanical and Civil Engineer Who Improved the Tunneling Shield and the Basic Tool of Underwater Tunneling)
James Henry Greathead
2
Birthdate: August 6, 1844
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Grahamstown, South Africa
Died: October 21, 1896

James Henry Greathead was a civil and mechanical engineer best remembered for his work on the Liverpool overhead railway, Winchester Cathedral, and the London Underground railways. He is also credited with inventing the Greathead Shield, Greathead Injector Hydrant, and Greathead Grouting Machine.

 18 
William Nicholson
(Chemist and inventor)
William Nicholson
2
Birthdate: December 13, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 21, 1815

William Nicholson is best remembered for discovering the electrolysis of water, which revolutionized the chemical industry. His inventions also include his own hydrometer and launched the first independent science journal. Inspired by his writer friend Thomas Holcroft, he also penned An Introduction to Natural Philosophy, his best-known written work.

 19 
George Grove
(British Engineer, Writer and Founding Editor of 'Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians')
George Grove
2
Birthdate: August 13, 1820
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 28, 1900

Although the son of a meat seller and fishmonger, George Grove grew up appreciating music and literature. Although he began his career as a civil engineer, his passion for music drove him to write the iconic Dictionary of Music and Musicians. He also served the Royal College of Music as its first director.

 20 
Donald Bailey
(Civil engineer)
Donald Bailey
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Birthdate: September 15, 1901
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rotherham, England
Died: May 5, 1985

Donald Bailey is largely remembered as the man behind the formation of the Bailey Bridge, which played a major role in World War II. He received many awards, including a knighthood, for his contribution. The University of Sheffield alumnus initially worked in railroading before joining the Ministry of Supply’s bridging department.

 21 
William Fairbairn
(Civil engineer)
William Fairbairn
2
Birthdate: February 19, 1789
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kelso, Scotland
Died: August 18, 1874

William Fairbairn is remembered for his pioneering use of wrought iron for building bridges, ship hulls, and beams. Apart from inventing the Lancashire boiler, he also served as the president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He also introduced proper and systematic investigations of the collapse of structures.

 22 
John Hawkshaw
(Civil engineer)
John Hawkshaw
1
Birthdate: April 9, 1811
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Died: June 2, 1891

Known for constructions such as the Severn Tunnel and the Charing Cross and Cannon Street railways, John Hawkshaw was initially employed with the Manchester and Leeds Railway. His work was spread across Egypt, India, and the Netherlands. He was eventually knighted and made a fellow of the Royal Society.

 23 
George Robert Stephenson
(Civil Engineer)
George Robert Stephenson
1
Birthdate: October 20, 1819
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: October 26, 1905

Born into a family of engineers, George Robert Stephenson is known for his work with his uncle George Stephenson and cousin Robert Stephenson, who were both renowned railway engineers. He worked for the railways in New Zealand and England and was also instrumental in the construction of Canada’s Victoria tubular bridge.

 24 
William Lindley
(Engineer)
William Lindley
1
Birthdate: September 7, 1808
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 22, 1900

British engineer William Lindley is remembered for his contribution toward the renovation of the city of Hanover in Germany, rebuilding everything from gas works to public baths, after a devastating fire that destroyed the city for 3 days. He also designed the sewerage systems of several European cities, such as Frankfurt.

 25 
Dud Dudley
(British Metallurgist Who Was the First to Smelt Iron Ore With Coke)
Dud Dudley
1
Birthdate: 1600 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: 1684 AD

Metallurgist Dud Dudley is remembered for pioneering the method of smelting iron ore with coke. His invention was a welcome change at a time when the government was way of the environmental damage caused by deforestation in search of fuel. He had also penned the book Metallum Martis.

 26 
William John Macquorn Rankine
(Engineer, Physicist, Civil engineer, University teacher)
William John Macquorn Rankine
1
Birthdate: July 5, 1820
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: December 24, 1872

Scottish engineer William John Macquorn Rankine is best known as one of the pioneers of thermodynamics, especially the first law of thermodynamics. He is remembered for his studies on the steam-engine theory and for introducing the Rankine cycle. He also contributed to the domain of soil mechanics.

 27 
Thomas Tredgold
(Engineer)
Thomas Tredgold
1
Birthdate: August 22, 1788
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brandon Village, England
Died: January 28, 1829

Initially a carpenter, Thomas Tredgold later began working with his architect uncle in London. There, he learned architecture, engineering, and French. The self-made man is best known for his book Elementary Principles of Carpentry, which later became a classic. He is also known to have laid down the standard definition of civil engineering.

 28 
Sir Gilbert Roberts
(Civil engineer)
Sir Gilbert Roberts
1
Birthdate: February 18, 1899
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 1, 1978

Civil engineer Sir Gilbert Roberts is best remembered for his series of long bridges, including the famous Firth of Forth bridge in Scotland. Initially part of the British Army’s air arm in World War I, he quit after being wounded and focused on engineering instead. He was also knighted for his achievements.

 29 
William Willcocks
1
Birthdate: September 27, 1852
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: India
Died: July 28, 1932

The son of a British engineer, William Willcocks, too followed in his father’s footsteps and is remembered for his contribution to the construction of the first Aswan Dam in Egypt. He had also worked on irrigation projects in South Africa and collaborated with the Turkish government too. He was knighted for his work.

 30 
Murdoch Macdonald
(Civil engineer)
Murdoch Macdonald
0
Birthdate: May 6, 1866
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: England
Died: April 24, 1957

Apart from being a civil engineer, Murdoch Macdonald was also a politician. He had his own firm and also served the Institution of Civil Engineers as its president. His 23-year term in Egypt witnessed him working for the first Aswan Dam and other irrigation projects. He was also a Liberal Party MP.

 31 
Basil Mott
(Civil engineer)
Basil Mott
0
Birthdate: September 16, 1859
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: England
Died: September 7, 1938

Initially educated in Switzerland, Basil Mott later joined the Royal School of Mines and eventually became a mining engineer. He later contributed to the construction of the Central London Railway. His work also took him to India and France, and he was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

 32 
Robert Legget
(Civil engineer)
Robert Legget
0
Birthdate: September 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Died: April 17, 1994

A prominent force behind the Canadian National Building Code, Robert Legget was not just a civil engineer but also a talented author. He also initially taught soil mechanics and engineering, and penned books such as Ottawa Waterway. He was also made the Companion of the Order of Canada.

 33 
Joshua Field
(Civil engineer)
Joshua Field
0
Birthdate: 1786 AD
Birthplace: Hackney, Middlesex, England
Died: August 11, 1863

Engineer Joshua Field was not just part of the firm Maudslay, Sons, and Field but also co-created the combined steam engines that powered the Great Western’s maiden trans-Atlantic journey. He also co-established the Institution of Civil Engineers and was named a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Society of Arts.

 34 
Hubert Shirley-Smith
0
Birthdate: October 13, 1901
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: February 10, 1981

Civil engineer Hubert Shirley-Smith is best known for his contribution to the construction of the iconic Howrah Bridge in Calcutta, India. He also served the Institution of Civil Engineers as its president. He also worked on Scotland’s Forth Road Bridge and Finland’s Rovaniem Bridge. He was eventually knighted for his achievements.

 35 
David Hay
(Civil engineer)
David Hay
0
Birthdate: April 10, 1859
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Casterton, England
Died: October 30, 1938

Best known for designing bridges and tunnels, David Hay was initially a contractor’s engineer and then worked with Sir Benjamin Baker. Apart from working on the modernization of London bridges, he also worked in Sydney. He and his business partner Basil Mott also wrote extensively on underground railways.

 36 
Reginald Coates
(Civil engineer)
Reginald Coates
0
Birthdate: June 28, 1920
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New Mills, Derbyshire, England
Died: November 22, 2004

Civil engineer Reginald Coates initially served as a Royal Engineers officer during World War II. He later also taught at the University of Nottingham, before taking over the planning of the new building of the institute’s faculty of engineering. He also served the Institution of Civil Engineers as its president.